Nanoconstruction by Pinhole Camera

Nanoconstruction by Pinhole Camera


Russian Academy of Sciences have developed a method of nanofabrication using an atom pinhole camera…. The technique could produce individual nanostructures down to 30 nm, a size reduction of 10,000 times compared with the original object.
“Our present experimental results show the resolution about 30 nm, but our calculations (the theoretical prediction) tell us that the resolution can be down to about 6 nm,” Victor Balykin of the Russian Academy of Sciences told

Using an atom pinhole camera to fabricate nanostructures offers several advantages compared to other nanofabrication techniques, which include optical photolithography (in which a photosensitive material is molded by light), nanolithography (in which focused particle beams mold objects), and atom optics methods that use lenses, which are limited by diffraction.

The atom pinhole camera is a novel type of lens-less atom optics technique, which uses diffraction to its advantage. While it might seem that resolution in atom pinhole camera would be limited to the diameter of the pinhole, the researchers show in an upcoming study that the image spot diameter can be three times smaller than the pinhole diameter, which is due to diffraction effects.

P.N. Melentiev et al, “Nanolithography based on an atom pinhole camera.” Nanotechnology 20 (2009) 235301 (7pp). (free for a limited time)

This is a form of additive lithography that’s competitive with the best of current (subtractive) photolithography. Note that the size of objects capable of being built is getting down into the range of optical antennas, like the nano-goldenrods in this memory formulation.

Note that the Physorg article gets the date of Feynman’s talk wrong — it was 1959.

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  1. Anonymous June 3, 2009 at 12:01 am - Reply

    Hm, does this work?

  2. Anonymous June 3, 2009 at 12:46 am - Reply

    Heh, it works about the same amount that anything in a scientific paper does. “We got some results that look promising, but our funding ran out, and no we’re not going to commercialize this.” 10 years passes. Someone else discovers it. Nothing happens with it for another 10 years. Someone references the paper in passing. A tinkerer has a go at it and determines that it’s completely impractical, but doesn’t publish anything. Another tinkerer tries it out and decides it’s the best thing since sliced bread, there’s a media hoopla. He get VC funding. Hires engineers. They tell him it won’t work. They go out of business. 3 years later someone suggests starting a company based on this technology, but the VC isn’t forthcoming. A few years after that someone figures out a way to do it with half decent scale, and publishes. A dozen tinkerers scramble to found startups. The research organization spins off a startup. There’s a whole lot of competition. In an effort to be first to market the whole concept gets downgraded to a more practical technology. The other startups fail because they didn’t get to market first. The first startup fails because it wasn’t revolutionary enough. There’s another 10 year hiatus while a handful of the engineers who were in these startups get jobs at research labs of corporate giants (typically in Japan). They eventually find each other and start work on a serious effort. A practical system is developed and the announcement is met with cynicism and boredom by the media who happily report that the technology has been tried and died in the startup incubator. Meanwhile the technology quietly becomes a standard part of the medical instruments manufacturing line and no-one ever hears about it again.

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